​Sophia Walker: A Call to Arms for Fringe Performers

Poet Sophia Walker, former BBC Slam champion, is back! But this time she’s on the other side of the clipboard: organising and hosting the competition she once won. That won’t stop her from publishing an inspirational call-to-arms for all Fringe performers though. If you’re tired of flyering on the Mile, this is the blog you can turn to.

This might be the most you are ever needed in your entire life.

Many of us have spent the last few months sitting in darkened rooms, sobbing. Perfect training for the Fringe, really! We are in peak sitting condition! I am ready and able to be quiet in the dark, indeed have found myself unable to form anything other than a caterwauling yowl since late June, and no mere fringe cringe of a show could bring me lower than I have already been brought.

All jokes aside, this may be one of the most necessary Edinburgh Fringes there has ever been. We need an escape. And we need to not escape. I need at least an hour watching something terribly important and highbrow happening on a space hopper, followed by a glitter-drenched transvestite historical musical, and then I need someone to confront me with the realities of what’s really going on in the world and fire me up so I leave that show ready to f’ing change shit. I need a lot of things, really. Like meeting a single European with a marriage wish and a penchant for British lesbians. Deffo need that.

This is the first year in many I’m not doing a solo show. I’m not even doing two! And I must admit a huge sense of regret. I’ve chosen to miss out on a vital year: we need you. We need new ideas, new challenges, new laughs, new… macaroni pies. This could go two ways: you may walk out in front of the most subdued audiences you’ve ever faced (some of us are feeling a little shell-shocked), or perhaps we’ll greet you with unfathomably riotous noise, just needing any kind of release. Either way, we will be there. Broke, perhaps broken, but definitely there.

And this is what I love about the Fringe, and why this year is so crucial: your job is to bring us all together. And unlike a lot of people who spend most of their careers bleating about bringing people together, you can actually do it. For an hour, in a darkened room, you’ll make us sit together. We won’t know who voted what or who dislikes who or anything but whether we all find you funny or whether we’re all quietly weeping. We’ll sit next to strangers and speak to them after. For some of us, it may be the first conversation with strangers we’ve had in a while that isn’t tinged with suspicion.

Over the next three weeks, you will change minds, introduce strangers, spark action (even if it’s just inspiring someone to write their own Fringe show. This is how we get them. Can you tell my last show was about cults?). You will be exhausted. You already are exhausted. You’ve been exhausted for months. You’re also broke, stressed, terrified, pressured and possibly coming down with lurgy. But seriously, we need you. This might be the most you are ever needed in your entire life. I hope not, but just in case, best take advantage: this is the year of all years to rise above, to break on through, to whatever motivational poster quote mixed with Jim Morrison lyric you fancy.

Every time I think about this year’s Fringe, the famous Harry Lime speech from The Third Man creeps into my brain: Thirty years under the bloodshed of the Borgias and the Italians gave us the Renaissance. Five hundred years of democracy and neutrality and the Swiss produced the cuckoo clock.

You have three weeks. Bring it.

You can find Sophia Walker on Twitter @PoetWalker at at https://poetwalker.com/. The BBC Slam Heats are free, 8:30pm 8-11 August inclusive, BBC Area, Venue 25. The Grand Final, featuring an exclusive performance by Sage Francis and B. Dolan is 9pm August 14.

Since you’re here…

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You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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